CP&DR News Briefs September 25, 2017: Huntington Beach General Plan; Border Wall Suit; ULI on YIMBY; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Sep 24, 2017
The City of Huntington Beach Planning Commission preliminarily approved the General Plan update through 2040 and certified the associated EIR Sept. 18. At the last minute, though, the City Council delayed a vote on the plan itself in part to consider the impacts of pending state legislation. The new plan forecasts very little growth for the city, accommodating 85,403 residential units through 2040 — down from a projection of over 86,000 units in the city’s 1996 general plan. The update includes new zoning for “research and technology,” intended to spur economic development and accommodate new types of industrial and commercial uses. The holdup is due in part to Senate Bill 35, which requires cities to streamline certain housing approvals; Council Member Erik Peterson wants city staff to consider how SB 35 might interact with the draft plan. 

Delta Water Tunnels Face New Challenges
The WaterFix tunnel project recently won key approval from regulators, but the $17 billion project has multiple agencies that have expressed concern about the high costs. It is difficult to estimate the cost each agency will pay if the total number of agencies is unknown explains Robert Shaver, general manager of Alameda County Water District. Santa Clara Valley Water District as well as districts in Central Valley and Southern California have said they will make a decision next month. Westlands Water District’s board rejected participation, 7-1, last week. Westlands provides irrigation water to 1,000 square miles of San Joaquin Valley farms and would be a major funder of the project. Westlands’ rejection could therefore empire the project. While there is no set deadline for agencies to make their decisions, officials are hoping to begin building tunnels next year. 

California-Based Environmental Groups Sue Feds over Border Wall
The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Defense Fund sued the federal government in an attempt to block construction of a border wall with Mexico. The environmental groups allege that President Trump may overstep his authority by waiving environmental reviews and laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The suit claims that the wall would irreparably harm habitats of species including bighorn sheep, jaguars, and ocelots. A similar lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity but the three organizations say they each have hundreds of thousands of members. The government recently awarded eight contracts to build prototypes of the wall with construction beginning this fall. In August, the administration waived environmental reviews on a 15-mile stretch of border in San Diego.

ULI Issues Report on Housing Advocacy
The Urban Land Institute released a report “Yes in My Backyard” on how cities and states can help find common ground in expanding housing choices and opportunities through local land use policies and incentives. Local zoning and land use regulations have slowed affordable housing development and states have not been using their authority and resources to help cities plan. The report suggests five ways states can help cities and counties promote housing development: ensure localities are assessing future housing needs, provide incentives to local communities for zoning for new housing, reduce regulatory requirements that increase costs and slow development, authorize cities to invest own resources for pro-housing land uses, and enable communities to overcome unreasonable neighborhood opposition.

Lyft Makes Foray into Planning With L.A. Street Proposal
Lyft with the help of Perkins+Will and transportation consultants Nelson/Nygaard have reenvisioned some streets in L.A. for the future. The designs include trees, protected bike lanes, loading zone for ridesharing vehicles, three narrowed lanes for vehicles and lanes for autonomous buses. The concept for Wilshire Boulevard features widened sidewalks, landscaping and benches to create a more comfortable and welcoming space. The team believes this could allow the road to transport four times as many people with twice as many road users, such as motorists and cyclists. Lyft is also partnering with SCAG on its 100 Hours Campaign to reduce congestion. Both Lyft and Uber have endorsed congestion pricing in cities, but no U.S. city has embraced the model yet.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Strategic Growth Council and the Department of Housing and Community Development for Round 3 AHSC Application Workshops. The program will include the AHSC 2016-2017 Program Guidelines, Scoring Criteria, and Greenhouse Gas Quantification Methodology. The workshops will be held in October in Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.

The proposed 2018 statewide initiative to extend Prop. 13’s property tax breaks from older to younger homeowners would ultimate cost local governments and the state billions of dollars a year, according to an analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The LAO found cities and counties would receive less money because the measure would reduce the amount in property taxes that occur with new home purchases.

The San Francisco school board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the Office of Housing and Development to construct up to 150 units on a former school site in the Outer Sunset neighborhood. The city would contribute about $44 million. The units would be for teachers and aides who have increasing difficulty finding housing on their median $70,000 salaries. The process would take up to two years, including finding a developer, designing, working with neighbors and going through environmental impact studies. Construction would take an estimated 18 months meaning the units could be ready by 2022.

San Diego County Supervisors unanimously approved to put $25 million into a trust fund to help create more affordable homes. The trust was first proposed in early June, and would be administered by the county’s Health and Human Services Department and include projects that house homeless or at risk of homelessness, veterans, people with disabilities, seniors, transitional age youth, and families. The fund proposal must return to the board in October for final consideration.

The City of Costa Mesa City Council and Planning Commission decided its small-lot ordinance and urban plans and overlay districts needed some changes. The small-lot ordinance eases standards for proposed developments of 15 or fewer detached homes in areas zones for multifamily units and the urban plans and overlay districts outline development standards in certain portions of the city. Many residents are requesting a repeal or moratorium.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors is considering a new program to keep private transit vehicles out of Muni bus lanes and crosswalks, and from replicating existing transit routes. Chariot, the only major private transit company operating in the city, is expecting to pay $240,000. Enforcing the new regulations will cost the agency $250,000. While Chariot is the only player in the market now, city officials are interested in developing a framework now.

The Office of Planning and Research has launched a new website: opr.ca.gov. The front page includes easy buttons for CEQA, General Plan Guidelines, CEQA Clearinghouse, Adaption Clearinghouse, Just the Facts and Environmental Goals. The new design is intended to be more user friendly and organized. 

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is proposing dismantling the city’s Housing Authority saying the diminishing funds from the federal government makes the continued operations difficult. The Richmond Housing Authority runs six public housing projects and administers Section 8 vouchers for low-income residents. Butt said dissolving the agency would not eliminate existing public housing but would relieve the city from financial responsibility over the subsidized homes. The homes would be transferred to Contra Costa County Housing Authority, HUD, or a nonprofit or private developer.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, announced that it will limit domestic companies’ investments abroad in property, sports, entertainment and other fields. President Xi Jinping is encouraging companies to invest in the “Belt and Road” initiative, which includes ports, highways, railways, and power plant, to link China with other parts of Asia and eastern Europe. Chinese companies have invested heavily in real estate development in California, particularly in downtown Los Angeles. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Next 10 and Beacon Economics released the ninth annual California Green Innovation Index and found that California’s climate policies have allowed for significant economic growth with GDP growing almost $5,000 per person between 2006 and 2015. However, the rate of GHG emissions declining is slowing due in part because of a large spike in transportation emissions. Commute times have increased and public transportation trips have decreased 4.8 percent between 2014 and 2015. Transportation accounts for almost forty percent of total emissions. To reach climate goals emission targets will become stricter and require greater reductions.

The City of Los Angeles Planning Commission voted unanimously to back a proposed regulation that would limit marijuana retailers to most commercial and industrial zones, barring them from opening within 800 feet of school, parks, libraries, alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, and other pot shops. The draft rules also specify where manufacturers, distributors and greenhouses can operate in the city. The marijuana companies are required to get both a state license and city approval to operate in LA.

The California State Association of Counties released its 2017 Challenge Award Recipients. CSAC received 288 entries and 16 programs were selected to receive Challenge Awards and another 33 programs received Merit Awards. In Housing, Land Use, and Infrastructure Nevada County-Over-the-Counter Plan Review Program, Sonoma County- Creating More Housing with 100% Rental density Bonus and Los Angeles County- Spanish Planning Program received Challenge Awards. In the Merit Award category, Los Angeles County- Buyer-Beware: Property Buying Education Program and San Bernardino County- Code Enforcement Illegal Dumping Program received awards.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation announced its two 2017 Stewardship Excellence Award Recipients. While one was in Portland, Ore., the other was The Sea Ranch Association in Marin County. The Sea Ranch Association was established by developers, along with a Design Committee, to guide physical improvements in the area. The group has a Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions giving the revolutionary idea real teeth.

The California High Speed Rail Authority approved roughly $50 million in contract amendments to deal with unanticipated construction and environmental review costs. However, some board members said the repeated budget overruns are damaging the project’s public image and more oversight of how budgets are set and spent is required.

San Francisco and Oakland are suing five oil companies to pay for costs of protecting the Bay Area from rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. According to one of the lawsuits, San Francisco’s seawell is projected to cost $5 billion.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission released a report saying traffic congestion in the Bay Area has increased 80 percent since 2010. In 2016, the average driver spent roughly 3.5 minutes per commute traveling less than 35 mph, a new record, and 9 percent increase from 2015. The report ranks the worst freeways and segments throughout the Bay Area.